The merits of making pickles, jams, and tomato sauce are manifold. But the factors of reality — time, inclinations, lack of distractions, and the harvest schedule — don’t often align to make massive canning sessions possible. I can what I can when I can, but when I can’t, I don’t feel guilty anymore because the freezer is my friend.
Here are five things you can easily freeze, without too much of a degradation of quality, even if you don’t have one of those fancy cryovac bag sealers. When winter hits and most indoor farmers markets are flooded with kale and root veggies, you’ll be pulling little bits of sunshine out of the deep freeze.
1. Roast some plum tomatoes.
I have been feverishly buying organic tomatoes for $1.50 a pound at my farmers market in two- to three-pound increments for the past couple of weeks. I’ll quarter them, toss with kosher salt and pepper and olive oil, and then roast them at a low temperature, between 250 and 300°F for 30 to 40 minutes. (The farmer I bought from does them at 150°F for 24 hours for the ultimate forget-about-it process.) Let them cool, and then freeze them in two-cup portions.
I have added the totally frozen contents to stews and sauces, but if you have the foresight, defrost overnight in the fridge. Any extra freezer-related liquid will cook off.
2. Local salted cultured butter is a revelation.
This year in our region we’ve gone from zero to two creameries who do butter. As the weather becomes colder, the butter won’t possess the same robust color and complex flavor as it does in late summer and early fall, when cows are chomping on different kinds of grasses. Unopened and unused, this’ll keep for several months.
You can also buy good local cream, which is richer and sweeter in the summertime, and make your own butter to freeze.
3. Turn greens into pesto.
Use any green — kale, chard, cilantro, basil, or parsley. Scoop out and freeze in those little trays with lids. (The ones I have accompanied the baby food maker I received when my twins were born; they’re also good for tomato paste and leftover coffee, which I defrost and add to chocolate cake batters.)
Pop out a cube or two, add a little olive oil if needed, and toss with pasta in January for what feels like the ultimate culinary cheat of the calendar.
4. Husk, parboil, and blanch corn on the cob.
Boil the cobs in a large pot of water just a couple minutes shy of your normal boil time, which will vary. (The sweeter the corn, the shorter the time; when in doubt, ask your farmer.) Remove from the pot and shock the cobs in a large bowl of ice to halt the cooking process. You can cut the kernels off the cob, freeze them, and make stock with the leftover cobs (and freeze that), or freeze the cooled cobs, intact. If so, cover them with plastic wrap and store in freezer bags.
5. Cut up local specialty peppers.
The organic peppers are crazy expensive in the winter. I’ve learned I don’t need to boil or blanch (although roasting them is always a nice step, if you have time!). I buy massive amounts of Jimmy Nardellos, a super sweet, long red heirloom pepper, chop them, and add in one or two-cup portions to small freezer bags, and label them. I add this activity to dinner prep on days I’m cooking with peppers. Major time saver.
And more ...
Finally, I’ve also frozen mushrooms, edamame, sugar snap peas, and various beans (green, yellow wax, etc.) with some degree of success, blanching all but the mushrooms.
Word of caution: You know how zucchini bread recipes usually yield two loaves? One’s for the freezer, because the veggie doesn’t hold up in there otherwise.
What’s your favorite freezable farmers market find?
(Image credits: Lucy Hewett; Leela Cyd; Dana Velden; Sara Kate Gillingham; Emma Christensen; Emily Han)